At 81, Baptist a Moral Monday protester

The Chapel Hill resident said her goal is to avoid arrest at protests against North Carolina Republicans who are cutting into social programs and education.

By Jeff Brumley

When Baptist Jacqueline Allen of Chapel Hill began participating this month in the Moral Monday protests against the Republican-led North Carolina legislature, she got a loving-but-firm admonition from her daughter and son-in-law: don’t get arrested.

“An 81-year-old doesn’t need to be in jail,” Allen said with a laugh today while attending CBF General Assembly in Greensboro, N.C. “I don’t want to get arrested.”

But she does want to join the thousands of other protesters, many of them driven by religious beliefs, and make known her dismay at budget cuts that threaten education, health care and other social programs in North Carolina. So far thousands have turned out – and around 600 of them arrested -- for the demonstrations that run from 5 to 6 p.m. Mondays in front of state General Assembly in Raleigh.

Baptists involved

Allen, who worships at Hope Valley Baptist Church in Durham, said she’s been joined by many other Baptists at the Moral Monday protests. But it’s also an ecumenical movement including Quakers, Unitarian Universalists, Presbyterians and Methodists, she said.

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“All of our religious groups are concerned about the civic good,” Allen said.

Allen has been to two protests so far, the first time carrying a sign reading “Remember the least of these,” and the second one declaring “blessed are the merciful.” Her hope is to remind legislators catering to conservative Christians that other Christians also “have very strong teachings” that should be considered before cutting money for schools, the sick and unemployed.

“We have worked for decades to help create equal opportunities for our citizens,” she said. Legislators should “wait a minute and think about the people who elected you and don’t cut down our schools and our Medicaid.”

Civic and political involvement is nothing new for Allen. She has worked as a public school teacher and as a case worker at a mental health center, and has served as a precinct chairwoman in precincts in North Carolina and Florida.

She also boasts a rich Baptist heritage, which she said drivers her concern for the good of others.

Born in Jackson, Miss., her grandfather was pastor of First Baptist Church, from which he preached social and economic justice for African-Americans.  “He always talked about fairness and helping others.”

Her late husband’s father had been the editorial secretary for the then-Sunday School Board in Nashville and her own father was a lay member of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. A great-grandmother was a schoolmate of Lottie Moon, she said.

Allen said she’s attending CBF General Assembly for the fellowship with other Baptists. On Wednesday she attended Baptist Women in Ministry’s 30-year anniversary celebration. She’s also attended workshops in line with her social concerns, including those on dementia, child sexual abuse and the debate over believer’s Baptism.

Politically conservative Christians cannot challenge her on religious grounds, she said. “If anybody has Baptists credentials, I do,” she said.